The Sexual Harassment Of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013

What is this Act about?

This Act makes it illegal to sexually harass women in the workplace. It talks about the different ways in which someone can be sexually harassed and how they can complain against this kind of behaviour.

Is this Act only for women?

Yes, this Act is only for women who are sexually harassed in workplaces.

Is this Act only for working women?

No, this Act is for any woman who is harassed in any workplace. It is not necessary for the woman to be working at the workplace in which she is harassed. A workplace can be any office, whether government or private.

There is no sexual harassment at my office. Do I still have to follow the instructions regarding setting up an Internal Complaints Committee?

Yes, even if there are no cases of sexual harassment at the moment, it is still necessary for the committee to be set up (if you employ more than 10 workers) and for all rules to be followed.

Am I not allowed to approach the police and courts because of this Act?

No, the Act gives you a choice between dealing with the offender within the office or approaching a court. If you wish, you can file a criminal complaint instead of approaching your Internal/Local Complaints Committee.

Updated till Nov, 2016
The Sexual Harassment Of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013 ACT NO. 14 OF 2013 [22nd April, 2013.] An Act to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. WHEREAS sexual harassment results in violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and to live with dignity under article 21 of the Constitution and right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business with includes a right to a safe environment free from sexual harassment; AND WHEREAS the protection against sexual harassment and the right to work with dignity are universally recognised human rights by international conventions and instruments such as Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, which has been ratified on the 25th June, 1993 by the Government of India; AND WHEREAS it is expedient to make provisions for giving effect to the said Convention for protection of women against sexual harassment at workplace.
BE it enacted by Parliament in the Sixty fourth Year of the Republic of India as follows: —

1. Short title, extent and commencement.—

(1) This Act may be called the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
(2) It extends to the whole of India.
(3) It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint.
  • This Act applies to every person in India.
  • It is in place from December 9, 2013.

2. Definitions.—

In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, — (a) “aggrieved woman” means— (i) in relation to a workplace, a woman, of any age whether employed or not, who alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment by the respondent; (ii) in relation to a dwelling place or house, a woman of any age who is employed in such a dwelling place or house; (b) “appropriate Government” means— (i) in relation to a workplace which is established, owned, controlled or wholly or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly— (A) by the Central Government or the Union territory administration, the Central Government; (B) by the State Government, the State Government; (ii) in relation to any workplace not covered under sub-clause (i) and falling within its territory, the State Government; (c) “Chairperson” means the Chairperson of the Local Complaints Committee nominated under sub-section (1) of section 7; (d) “District Officer” means on officer notified under section 5; (e) “domestic worker” means a woman who is employed to do the household work in any household for remuneration whether in cash or kind, either directly or through any agency on a temporary, permanent, part time or full time basis, but does not include any member of the family of the employer; (f) “employee” means a person employed at a workplace for any work on regular, temporary, ad hoc or daily wage basis, either directly or through an agent, including a contractor, with or, without the knowledge of the principal employer, whether for remuneration or not, or working on a voluntary basis or otherwise, whether the terms of employment are express or implied and includes a co-worker, a contract worker, probationer, trainee, apprentice or called by any other such name; (g) “employer” means— (i) in relation to any department, organisation, undertaking, establishment, enterprise, institution, office, branch or unit of the appropriate Government or a local authority, the head of that department, organisation, undertaking, establishment, enterprise, institution, office, branch or unit or such other officer as the appropriate Government or the local authority, as the case may be, may by an order specify in this behalf; (ii) in any workplace not covered under sub-clause (i), any person responsible for the management, supervision and control of the workplace. Explanation. —For the purposes of this sub-clause “management” includes the person or board or committee responsible for formulation and administration of polices for such organisation; (iii) in relation to workplace covered under sub-clauses (i) and (ii), the person discharging contractual obligations with respect to his or her employees; (iv) in relation to a dwelling place or house, a person or a household who employs or benefits from the employment of domestic worker, irrespective of the number, time period or type of such worker employed, or the nature of the employment or activities performed by the domestic worker; (h) “Internal Committee” means an Internal Complaints Committee constituted under section 4; (i) “Local Committee” means the Local Complaints Committee constituted under section 6; (j) “Member” means a Member of the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be; (k) “prescribed” means prescribed by rules made under this Act; (l) “Presiding Officer” means the Presiding Officer of the Internal Complaints Committee nominated under sub-section (2) of section 4; (m) “respondent’ means a person against whom the aggrieved woman has made a complaint under section 9; (n) “sexual harassment” includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication) namely:— (i) physical contact and advances; or (ii) a demand or request for sexual favours; or (iii) making sexually coloured remarks; or (iv) showing pornography; or (v) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature; (o) “workplace” includes— (i) any department, organisation, undertaking, establishment, enterprise, institution, office, branch or unit which is established, owned, controlled or wholly or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the appropriate Government or the local authority or a Government company or a corporation or a co-operative society; (ii) any private sector organisation or a private venture, undertaking, enterprise, institution, establishment, society, trust, non-governmental organisation, unit or service provider carrying on commercial, professional, vocational, educational, entertainmental, industrial, health services or financial activities including production, supply, sale, distribution or service; (iii) hospitals or nursing homes; (iv) any sports institute, stadium, sports complex or competition or games venue, whether residential or not used for training, sports or other activities relating thereto; (v) any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment including transportation by the employer for undertaking such journey; (vi) a dwelling place or a house; (p) “unorganised sector” in relation to a workplace means an enterprise owned by individuals or self-employed workers and engaged in the production or sale of goods or providing service of any kind whatsoever, and where the enterprise employs workers, the number of such workers is less than ten.
This section will define certain key terms that will be used repeatedly throughout the Act. Whenever these terms appear in this Act after this section, they will have the meanings that are explained here.

Who is an 'aggrieved woman'?

An aggrieved woman (or a victim) is:
  • At an office or factory - A woman who claims that she was sexually harassed, in any way. It is not necessary that the woman was working at the workplace.
  • At home - A woman who is working in that house as domestic help or any other kind of help.
In both cases, it does not matter how old the woman is.Therefore, the aggrieved woman can be:
  • a worker or employee of the workplace; or
  • anyone who has visited the workplace.

What is the 'appropriate government'?

Depending on the type of workplace, the State or Central Government is responsible for certain measures, as follows:
Type of workplace Appropriate Government Example
A workplace funded or controlled by the Central Government. Central Government For the Regional Passport Office, Kolkata, Central Government is the appropriate Government, as it is funded and controlled by the Central Government.
A workplace funded or controlled by the State Government. State Government The appropriate government for the Kolkata Regional Transport Office would be West Bengal State Government as it is funded by the State Government.
A workplace which is not a government organisation State Government The appropriate government for a law firm in Kolkata would be the West Bengal State Government.

Who is a 'domestic worker' under this law?

A domestic worker is a woman who does household work in your house such as cooking, cleaning, babysitting, washing clothes, washing utensils, taking care of the elderly works for wages (need not necessarily be paid in cash)
who may have been hired directly or through an agency who works full time or part-time who works on a long-term or short-term basis
is not a family member

Who is an 'employee' under this law?

An employee is simply any person who works at the workplace. The law does not treat you differently if you have been hired on a short-term basis or through an agency etc (see below) You could be a co-worker, contract worker, on probation, an intern or a trainee.
An employee is any person Who is employed:
  • on a regular or short-term basis,
  • for a particular project, or
  • on a daily basis (paid at the end of the day).
Employed directly or through an agency
Who may or may not be getting paid for their work Could include volunteer positions (for ex. unpaid internships) Need not have signed a proper contract
An employee includes A co-worker A probationer Interns or apprentices

Who is an 'employer'?

  • Government offices - An employer is usually the head of department. Sometimes, the government may decide that another person will be considered as the 'employer'.
  • Private offices - An employer is any person who manages and is in charge of the office. This includes the board or committee making and implementing policies.
  • Any office - A person who is an employer according to their contract.
  • Home - The person or the house which hires a domestic worker. The nature of the work and the number of workers do not matter.

Who is a 'respondent' under this law?

A respondent is the person against whom a complaint is made under this Act. A respondent can be of any gender and does not have to be male.

What is 'sexual harassment'?

Action Example
Unwelcome touching or other physical contact
It is not sexual harassment when a swimming coach touches his student as necessary while teaching her how to swim. If he touches her outside the pool once the class is over and she feels uncomfortable, it is sexual harassment.
Asking or demanding sex or any other sexual activity It is sexual harassment if the head of department tells a junior doctor to have sex with him if she wants to pass the medical residency exam.
Making remarks which are of a sexual nature. It is sexual harassment when an editor tells a young intern that she will become a successful journalist because she has fine features such as a shapely figure and long legs.
Showing pornographic material which may include videos, magazines, books etc. It is sexual harassment when a co-worker sends you pornographic videos without you ever asking him to send it.
Any other actions that are sexual in nature, which may be through speech, writing, touching etc.

What is a 'workplace'?

A workplace is a place where people work and could include:
  • any Central/State Government office or factory or branch (including a foreign branch, for example an overseas branch of a state bank);
  • any government company, co-operative society or local body;
  • any private organization;
  • any NGO;
  • any school, university or place of education;
  • any hospital or nursing home;
  • any place where sports is played such as a stadium or sports complex;
  • any place that the employee has to visit for work purposes (including the vehicle used for getting to such place); or
  • any household.

What do you mean by the 'unorganized sector'?

It refers to an organization (employing less than 10 people) owned by individuals and making goods or providing any kind of service

3. Prevention of sexual harassment.—

(1) No woman shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace.
(2) The following circumstances, among other circumstances, if it occurs, or is present in relation to or connected with any act or behaviour of sexual harassment may amount to sexual harassment:— (i) implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment; or (ii) implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in her employment; or (iii) implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status; or (iv) interference with her work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment for her; or (v) humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety.

When is sexual harassment said to take place?

It is illegal to sexually harass a woman at a workplace.These are the kinds of behaviour that will definitely amount to sexual harassment:
  • Asking or trying to ask a woman for sexual favours, attempting to ask for such favours, or making remarks that are sexual:
    • in return for special treatment in workplace - such as a promotion, higher salary, change of workload, etc., or
    • by threatening her that if she does not comply she will be fired, demoted, paid less, given extra work, be treated badly by her employers, or even face violence, etc.

4. Constitution of Internal Complaints Committee.—

(1) Every employer of a workplace shall, by an order in writing, constitute a Committee to be known as the “Internal Complaints Committee”: Provided that where the offices or administrative units of the workplace are located at different places or divisional or sub-divisional level, the Internal Committee shall be constituted at all administrative units or offices.
(2) The Internal Committees shall consist of the following members to be nominated by the employer, namely: — (a) a Presiding Officer who shall be a woman employed at a senior level at workplace from amongst the employees: Provided that in case a senior level woman employee is not available, the Presiding Officer shall be nominated from other offices or administrative units of the workplace referred to in sub-section(1): Provided further that in case the other offices or administrative units of the workplace do not have a senior level woman employee, the Presiding Officer shall be nominated from any other workplace of the same employer or other department or organisation; (b) not less than two Members from amongst employees preferably committed to the cause of women or who have had experience in social work or have legal knowledge; (c) one member from amongst non-governmental organisations or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment: Provided that at least one-half of the total Members so nominated shall be women.
(3) The Presiding Officer and every Member of the Internal Committee shall hold office for such period, not exceeding three years, from the date of their nomination as may be specified by the employer.
(4) The Member appointed from amongst the non-governmental organisations or associations shall be paid such fees or allowances for holding the proceedings of the Internal Committee, by the employer, as may be prescribed.
(5) Where the Presiding Officer or any Member of the Internal Committee, — (a) contravenes the provisions of section 16; or (b) has been convicted for an offence or an inquiry into an offence under any law for the time being in force is pending against him; or (c) he has been found guilty in any disciplinary proceedings or a disciplinary proceeding is pending against him; or (d) has so abused his position as to render his continuance in office prejudicial to the public interest, such Presiding Officer or Member, as the case may be, shall be removed from the Committee and the vacancy so created or any casual vacancy shall be filled by fresh nomination in accordance with the provisions of this section.

As an employer, what do you have to do under this law?

  • You need to set up an 'Internal Complaints Committee' if you employ more than 10 people to handle cases of sexual harassment at your workplace.
  • In case your workplace has more than one office or unit, then there should be an Internal Complaints Committee in each branch.

Who are the members of this committee?

The Internal Complaints Committee should have the following members:(a) A Presiding Officer:
  • This should be a woman who is a senior employee of the workplace.
  • In case there is no senior woman employee at your office, she can be from another office or unit of the same organization.
  • In case the other offices or units do not have senior women employees, she should be from any other workplace of the same employer (which can be another organization).
(b) Two members from among the employees of the workplace. These two should be familiar with social work or have some legal training.(c) One member from a women's issues NGOs. She could also just be someone familiar with issues relating to sexual harassment.
At least half the members of the Internal Complaints Committee should be women.Each member can hold their position for only three years.The employer has to pay the external member fees for holding the proceedings of the committee.

What happens if a member of an Internal Complaints Committee does something wrong?

A member of the Internal Complaints Committee has to be removed from office if he or she:
  • leaks any information in relation to a sexual harassment case to the public, or
  • has been convicted of a crime or is currently the subject of an inquiry, or
  • is found guilty in any disciplinary proceeding, or has disciplinary proceedings pending against him or her, or
  • has abused their position in any way.
The employer will have to get a new member in his or her place.

5. Notification of District Officer.—

The appropriate Government may notify a District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate or the Collector or Deputy Collector as a District Officer for every District to exercise powers or discharge functions under this Act.
The State Government can appoint a District Officer in every district to perform functions under the Act. The District Officer could be:
  • the District Magistrate/ Additional District Magistrate, or
  • the Collector/ Deputy Collector

6. Constitution and jurisdiction of Local Complaints Committee.—

(1) Every District Officer shall constitute in the district concerned, a committee to be known as the “Local Complaints Committee” to receive complaints of sexual harassment from establishments where the Internal Complaints Committee has not been constituted due to having less than ten workers or if the complaint is against the employer himself.
(2) The District Officer shall designate one nodal officer in every block, taluka and tehsil in rural or tribal area and ward or municipality in the urban area, to receive complaints and forward the same to the concerned Local Complaints Committee within a period of seven days.
(3) The jurisdiction of the Local Complaints Committee shall extend to the areas of the district where it is constituted.

What if there is no Internal Complaints Committee in every workplace?

The District Officer has to set up a Local Complaints Committee which will receive and hear complaints:
  • Which are against the employer, or
  • from workplaces which have less than 10 workers and have not set up an Internal Complaints Committee.
The District Officer has to appoint nodal officers which will forward complaints to Local Complaints Committees within seven days.

How far does the power of the Local Complaints Committee extend?

The Local Complaints Committee can hear cases of the entire district.

7. Composition, tenure and other terms and conditions of Local Complaints Committee.—

(1) The Local Complaints Committee shall consist of the following members to be nominated by the District Officer, namely: — (a) a Chairperson to be nominated from amongst the eminent women in the field of social work and committed to the cause of women; (b) one Member to be nominated from amongst the women working in block, taluka or tehsil or ward or municipality in the district; (c) two Members, of whom at least one shall be a woman, to be nominated from amongst such non-governmental organisations or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment, which may be prescribed: Provided that at least one of the nominees should, preferably, have a background in law or legal knowledge: Provided further that at least one of the nominees shall be a woman belonging to the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes or the Other Backward Classes or minority community notified by the Central Government, from time to time; (d) the concerned officer dealing with the social welfare or women and child development in the district, shall be a member ex officio.
(2) The Chairperson and every Member of the Local Committee shall hold office for such period, not exceeding three years, form the date of their appointment as may be specified by the District Officer.
(3) Where the Chairperson or any Member of the Local Complaints Committee — (a) contravenes the provisions of section 16; or (b) has been convicted for an offence or an inquiry into an offence under any law for the time being in force is pending against him; or (c) has been found guilty in any disciplinary proceedings or a disciplinary proceeding is pending against him; or (d) has so abused his position as to render his continuance in office prejudicial to the public interest, such Chairperson or Member, as the case may be, shall be removed from the Committee and the vacancy so created or any casual vacancy shall be filled by fresh nomination in accordance with the provisions of this section.
(4) The Chairperson and Members of the Local Committee other than the Members nominated under clauses (b) and (d) of sub-section (1) shall be entitled to such fees or allowances for holding the proceedings of the Local Committee as may be prescribed.
This section is in relation to the qualification of the members of the Local Complaints Committee. This section also specifies the situations in which members of this committee can be removed.

8. Grants and audit.—

(1) The Central Government may, after due appropriation made by Parliament by law in this behalf, make to the State Government grants of such sums of money as the Central Government my think fit, for being utilised for the payment of fees or allowances referred to in sub¬section (4) of section 7.
(2) The State Government may set up an agency and transfer the grants made under sub-section (1) to that agency.
(3) The agency shall pay to the District Officer, such sums as may be required for the payment of fees or allowances referred to in sub-section (4) of section 7.
(4) The accounts of the agency referred to in sub-section (2) shall be maintained and audited in such manner as may, in consultation with the Accountant General of the State, be prescribed and the person holding the custody of the accounts of the agency shall furnish, to the State Government, before such date, as may be prescribed, its audited copy of accounts together with auditors’ report thereon.
This section is in relation to grants made by the Central Government to the State Governments for fees and allowances of the members of the Local Complaints Committees.

9. Complaint of sexual harassment.—

(1) Any aggrieved woman may make, in writing, a complaint of sexual harassment at workplace to the Internal Committee if so constituted, or the Local Committee, in case it is not so constituted, within a period of three months from the date of incident and in case of a series of incidents, within a period of three months from the date of last incident: Provided that where such complaint cannot be made in writing, the Presiding Officer or any Member of the Internal Committee or the Chairperson or any Member of the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall render all reasonable assistance to the woman for making the complaint in writing: Provided further that the Internal Committee or, as the case may be, the Local Committee may, for the reasons to be recorded in writing, extend the time limit not exceeding three months, if it is satisfied that the circumstances were such which prevented the woman from filing a complaint within the said period.
(2) Where the aggrieved woman is unable to make a complaint on account of her physical or mental incapacity or death or otherwise, her legal heir or such other person as may be prescribed may make a complaint under this section.

Who can make a complaint?

A woman who has faced sexual harassment at the workplace can make a complaint.

To whom should the complaint be made?

  • If the organization has an Internal Complaints Committee, the victim should make a complaint to such committee.
  • If the organization has not set up an Internal Complaints Committee, the victim should make a complaint to the Local Complaints Committee.

By when should the complaint made?

The victim should make the complaint within 3 months of the incident. If there has been more than one incident, the complaint should be made within 3 months of the date of the last incident.

Can this time be extended?

Yes, this can be extended by the Internal or Local Complaints Committees if they find that the victim could not have made the complaint earlier. This time limit cannot extend beyond another 3 months.

How should the complaint be made?

The complaint should be made in writing. In case the complaint cannot be made in writing, the members of the Committee have to help the victim in writing down the complaint.For example, if the woman is illiterate and does not have access to a trustworthy scribe who will write the complaint, she can approach the Committee and the Committee should ensure that the complaint is properly recorded.

Can someone else file the complaint on behalf of the victim?

  • If the victim is physically unable to make the complaint (for example, if she is unconscious), her relative or friend, her co-worker, any person who knows of the incident and who has taken the consent of the victim, or any officer of the National or State Commissions for Women can make the complaint.
  • If the victim is not in a mental state to file a complaint, her relative or friend, her special educator, her psychiatrist/psychologist, her guardian or any person who is taking care of her can make the complaint. Also, any person who knows of the incident can make the complaint jointly with any of the people mentioned earlier.
  • If the victim is dead, any person who knows of the incident can make the complaint with the consent of her legal heir.

10. Conciliation.—

(1) The Internal Committee or, as the case may be, the Local Committee, may, before initiating an inquiry under section 11 and at the request of the aggrieved woman take steps to settle the matter between her and the respondent through conciliation: Provided that no monetary settlement shall be made as a basis of conciliation.
(2) Where a settlement has been arrived at under sub-section (1), the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall record the settlement so arrived and forward the same to the employer or the District Officer to take action as specified in the recommendation.
(3) The Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall provide the copies of the settlement as recorded under sub-section (2) to the aggrieved woman and the respondent.
(4) Where a settlement is arrived at under sub-section (1), no further inquiry shall be conducted by the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be.

Can the victim settle the matter with the offender without the direct involvement of the Committee?

Yes, she can ask the Committee to help settle the matter with the offender through conciliation.

What is conciliation?

Conciliation is a form of resolving disputes outside the formal court system and involved the joint effort of parties. In a conciliation, both parties will sit with a conciliator and work through issues to finally reach a settlement on a future course of action. The law on conciliation can be found in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.

Can a case of sexual harassment be settled with monetary compensation in a conciliation?

No, this is not possible. The conclusion of a conciliation for sexual harassment cannot be monetary or financial compensation.

What happens after the victim and the harasser reach a settlement during conciliation?

  • The settlement should be sent to the employer or District Officer so that action can be taken.
  • The Internal or Local Complaints Committee has to provide a copy of the recorded settlement to the victim and the offender.

Once the conciliation is over, can the Committee do anything?

No. Once the conciliation finishes, the Committee will not initiate any investigation.

11. Inquiry into complaint.—

(1) Subject to the provisions of section 10, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall, where the respondent is an employee, proceed to make inquiry into the complaint in accordance with the provisions of the service rules applicable to the respondent and where no such rules exist, in such manner as may be prescribed or in case of a domestic worker, the Local Committee shall, if prima facie case exist, forward the complaint to the police, within a period of seven days for registering the case under section 509 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), and any other relevant provisions of the said Code where applicable: Provided that where the aggrieved woman informs the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, that any term or condition of the settlement arrived at under sub-section (2) of section 10 has not been complied with by the respondent, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee shall proceed to make an inquiry into the complaint or, as the case may be, forward the complaint to the police: Provided further that where both the parties are employees, the parties shall, during the course of inquiry, be given an opportunity of being heard and a copy of the findings shall be made available to both the parties enabling them to make representation against the findings before the Committee.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in section 509 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), the court may, when the respondent is convicted of the offence, order payment of such sums as it may consider appropriate, to the aggrieved woman by the respondent, having regard to the provisions of section 15.
(3) For the purpose of making an inquiry under sub-section (1), the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall have the same powers as are vested in a civil court the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) when trying a suit in respect of the following matters, namely:— (a) summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath; (b) requiring the discovery and production of documents; and (c) any other matter which may be prescribed.
(4) The inquiry under sub-section (1) shall be completed within a period of ninety days.

In case the victim does not want a settlement, what happens to the complaint?

In this case, the Committee should initiate an inquiry into the conduct of the respondent and the accusation of sexual harassment.
  • If the offender is an employee, then the inquiry should be conducted according to the service rules of the workplace.
  • If there are no such rules, then the inquiry must be conducted in a particular manner (Rule 7 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013).
  • If the victim is a domestic worker, then the Committee will first look at whether there is enough to form a criminal case. If so they will inform the police who will register a criminal case of harassment within 7 days.

What if a term of settlement in the conciliation is not followed?

In this case, the victim can inform the Committee that the term has not been followed. The Committee will then either initiate its own inquiry into the matter or forward the complaint to the police.

What rights does the offender have?

Yes, the offender has the right to obtain a copy of the complaint. He also has the right to present his case before the Committee. Also, the Committee has to give both parties a copy of the findings.

What happens if the offender is convicted in court?

If the offender is convicted in a court for sexual harassment, the court can order the offender to compensate the victim. While deciding the compensation, the court will keep in mind a number of factors such as:
  • mental trauma and distress caused to the victim,
  • lost job opportunities,
  • medical treatment (whether physical or psychiatric),
  • victim's income and general financial status,
  • possibility of paying such sum at one go or in instalments.
This section is in relation to the procedural powers of the Internal or Local Complaints Committee.

How long can an inquiry go on for?

90 days.

12. Action during pendency of inquiry.—

(1) During the pendency of an inquiry on a written request made by the aggrieved woman, the Internal Committee or the local Committee, as the case may be, may recommend to the employer to— (a) transfer the aggrieved woman or the respondent to any other workplace; or (b) grant leave to the aggrieved woman up to a period of three months; or (c) grant such other relief to the aggrieved woman a may be prescribed.
(2) The leave granted to the aggrieved woman under this section shall be in addition to the leave she would be otherwise entitled.
(3) On the recommendation of the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, under sub-section (1), the employer shall implement the recommendations made under sub-section (1) and send the report of such implementation to the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be.

Can the victim continue working while the inquiry is pending?

The victim will not be required to leave work during the time of inquiry. She can make a request to the Committee which can then recommend to the employer that:
  • they transfer either the victim or the offender to another workplace, or
  • the victim be given three months' leave.
The Committee can also recommend other measures (Rule 8 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013) such as:
  • Not allow the offender to report on the victim's performance or to write her confidential report.
  • If the workplace is an educational institution like a college or university, not allow the offender to supervise the victim's academic activity.

Will the victim lose out on her otherwise sanctioned leave?

No, leave that is granted under this law will not be covered under any other kind of leave. The victim can use her usual leave in addition to such leave. For example, if a workplace ordinarily grants 25 days of leave per year and the Committee recommends 20 days of leave during the inquiry, her total permissible leave for that year will be 25+20=45 days.

Is the employer bound to implement the recommendations of the Committee?

Yes, once the Committee has given the recommendations, the employer should implement them and then send a report of how they were implemented back to the Committee.

13. Inquiry report.—

(1) On the completion of an inquiry under this Act, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall provide a report of its findings to the employer, or as the case may be, the District Officer within a period of ten days from the date of completion of the inquiry and such report be made available to the concerned parties.
(2) Where the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, arrives at the conclusion that the allegation against the respondent has not been proved, it shall recommend to the employer and the District Officer that no action is required to be taken in the matter.
(3) Where the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, arrives at the conclusion that the allegation against the respondent has been proved, it shall recommend to the employer or the District Officer, as the case may be— (i) to take action for sexual harassment as a misconduct in accordance with the provisions of the service rules applicable to the respondent or where no such service rules have been made, in such manner as may be prescribed; (ii) to deduct, notwithstanding anything in the service rules applicable to the respondent, from the salary or wages of the respondent such sum as it may consider appropriate to be paid to the aggrieved woman or to her legal heirs, as it may determine, in accordance with the provisions of section 15: Provided that in case the employer is unable to make such deduction from the salary of the respondent due to his being absent from duty or cessation of employment it may direct to the respondent to pay such sum to the aggrieved woman: Provided further that in case the respondent fails to pay the sum referred to in clause (ii), the Internal Committee or as, the case may be, the Local Committee may forward the order for recovery of the sum as an arrear of land revenue to the concerned District Officer.
(4) The employer or the District Officer shall act upon the recommendation within sixty days of its receipt by him.

What happens after the inquiry is over?

After the inquiry is over, the Committee should send a report of its findings and conclusions to the employer or to the District Officer within 10 days. This report should also be sent to the victim and the offender so that they can see what conclusions have been reached.

What happens if the allegation of sexual harassment is found not to be true?

In this case, the Committee will tell the employer and District Officer that there is no need to take any action against the respondent.

What happens if the allegation of sexual harassment is found to be true?

In this case, the Committee can make several recommendations to the employer or the District Officer:
Written apology Warning or censure Not giving a promotion
Not giving an increment Termination of employment Undergoing counselling session
Community service
  • Deduct a certain amount form the salary/wages of the offender so that compensation can be paid to the aggrieved woman.
  • If the employer cannot deduct such an amount because the offender does not come to work or has left work, the committee can order the offender to pay the victim directly.
  • If the respondent does not pay the compensation, then the Committee can ask the District Officer to recover the amount.

How long can the employer or District Officer take to implement the recommendations?

60 days.

14. Punishment for false or malicious complaint and false evidence.—

(1) Where the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, arrives at a conclusion that the allegation against the respondent is malicious or the aggrieved woman or any other person making the complaint has made the complaint knowing it to be false or the aggrieved woman or any other person making the complaint has produced any forged or misleading document, it may recommend to the employer or the District Officer, as the case may be, to take action against the woman or the person who has made the complaint under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) of section 9, as the case may be, in accordance with the provisions of the service rules applicable to her or him or where no such service rules exist, in such manner as may be prescribed: Provided that a mere inability to substantiate a complaint or provide adequate proof need not attract action against the complainant under this section: Provided further that the malicious intent on part of the complainant shall be established after an inquiry in accordance with the procedure prescribed, before any action is recommended.
(2) Where the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, arrives at a conclusion that during the inquiry any witness has given false evidence or produced any forged or misleading document, it may recommend to the employer of the witness or the District Officer, as the case may be, to take action in accordance with the provisions of the service rules applicable to the said witness or where no such service rules exist, in such manner as may be prescribed.

What if the victim makes a wrong complaint because she does not like the offender?

If the Committee finds that the woman (or her representative) made a wrong complaint because she does not like or hates the offender or that she gave them fake documents, it can ask the employer or District Officer to take action against the woman or person according to the service rules of the workplace. If there are no service rules, action can be taken in any manner recommended by the Committee (Rule 10 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013). This can be by way of:
Written apology Warning or censure Not giving a promotion
Not giving an increment Termination of employment Undergoing counselling session
Community service

How will the Committee decide whether the complaint is false?

  • If the victim is unable to provide enough proof to the Committee, it does not automatically make her complaint false.
  • The Committee will have to conduct an inquiry to find out if she made a wrong complaint on purpose.
  • Example: If there is a complaint initiated by Isha against Rohit but there are no witnesses or documents or any indication whatsoever that there was sexual harassment, then this will not be regarded as a false complaint. However, if Isha wrote an email where she told a friend she was lying, this may be a malicious or false complaint.

What happens if witnesses give false accounts?

If the Committee finds that a witness has told them things that did not happen or given fake documents, it can recommend to the employer or District Officer that action be taken according to the service rules. If there are no service rules, the government can make additional rules for this purpose.

15. Determination of compensation.—

For the purpose of determining the sums to be paid to the aggrieved woman under clause (ii) of sub-section (3) of section 13, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall have regard to— (a) the mental trauma, pain, suffering and emotional distress caused to the aggrieved woman; (b) the loss in the career opportunity due to the incident of sexual harassment; (c) medical expenses incurred by the victim for physical or psychiatric treatment; (d) the income and financial status of the respondent; (e) feasibility of such payment in lump sum or in instalments.

How will the committee decide how much compensation should be paid to the victim?

The Committee has to consider the following factors:
  • mental trauma and distress caused to the victim;
  • lost job opportunities because of the sexual harassment;
  • medical treatment (physical or psychiatric); and
  • victim's income and general financial status.
The Committee can decide that such compensation be paid in instalments or at one go.

16. Prohibition of publication or making known contents of complaint and inquiry proceedings.—

Notwithstanding anything contained in the Right to Information Act, 2005 (22 of 2005), the contents of the complaint made under section 9, the identity and addresses of the aggrieved woman, respondent and witnesses, any information relating to conciliation and inquiry proceedings, recommendations of the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, and the action taken by the employer or the District Officer under the provisions of this Act shall not be published, communicated or made known to the public, press and media in any manner: Provided that information may be disseminated regarding the justice secured to any vicitim of sexual harassment under this Act without disclosing the name, address, identity or any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the aggrieved woman and witnesses.

Can any information about the complaint or the inquiry be made public?

No. It is unlawful to publish any information relating to a sexual harassment complaint under this law to the media. This information includes any details of the victim, offender and witnesses, the settlement or inquiry proceedings and the Committee recommendations.Committee recommendations and settlements can be published so long as there is no information in there which can identify the victim or witnesses.Example:If Rohit is found guilty of harassing Isha, none of the information relating to their identities and contact details can be made public. However, the recommendations of the Committee which required Rohit to formally apologise to Isha and leave the organization can be made public. This information can be made public without disclosing Rohit or Isha's names or other details.

17. Penalty for publication or making known contents of complaint and inquiry proceedings.—

Where any person entrusted with the duty to handle or deal with the complaint, inquiry or any recommendations or action to be taken under the provisions of this Act, contravenes the provisions of section 16, he shall be liable for penalty in accordance with the provisions of the service rules applicable to the said person or where no such service rules exist, in such manner as may be prescribed.

What happens if any information is leaked?

If any person who deals with the complaint leaks information, she will be punished according to the service rules.If there are no rules, then a fine of Rs. 5000 can be imposed as a fine upon the person. (Rule 12 of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013).

18. Appeal.—

(1) Any person aggrieved from the recommendations made under sub-section (2) of section 13 or under clause (i) or clause (ii) of sub-section (3) of section 13 or sub-section (1) or sub¬section (2) of section 14 or section 17 or non-implementation of such recommendations may prefer an appeal to the court or tribunal in accordance with the provisions of the service rules applicable to the said person or where no such service rules exist then, without prejudice to provisions contained in any other law for the time being in force, the person aggrieved may prefer an appeal in such manner as may be prescribed.
(2) The appeal under sub-section (1) shall be preferred within a period of ninety days of the recommendations.

Is there a possibility of appealing against a decision of the Committee?

Yes, it is possible for the victim, offender or witness to appeal against a decision of the Committee.A few cases in which there can be an appeal is when the Committee decides that:
  • there has been no sexual harassment;
  • the offender should be let off or punished in some way; or
  • the offender should compensate the victim; or
  • victim has made a wrong complaint on purpose; or
  • witness has given wrong information or fake documents; or
  • someone has publicized details of a sexual harassment complaint, or
  • the employer has not implemented the recommendations on time.
The appeal can be made before the authority mentioned in the service rules of the work place If there are no service rules, they can appeal to specific industrial tribunal and labour courts.

Within how much time should the appeal be made?

Appeal should be made within 90 days.

19. Duties of employer.—

Every employer shall— (a) provide a safe working environment at the workplace which shall include safety from the persons coming into contact at the workplace; (b) display at any conspicuous place in the workplace, the penal consequences of sexual harassments; and the order constituting, the Internal Committee under sub-section (1) of section 4; (c) organise workshops and awareness programmes at regular intervals for sensitising the employees with the provisions of the Act and orientation programmes for the members of the Internal Committee in the manner as may be prescribed; (d) provide necessary facilities to the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, for dealing with the complaint and conducting an inquiry; (e) assist in securing the attendance of respondent and witnesses before the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be; (f) make available such information to the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case be, as it may require having regard to the complaint made under sub-section (1) of section 9; (g) provide assistance to the woman if she so chooses to file a complaint in relation to the offence under the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) or any other law for the time being in force; (h) cause to initiate action, under the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) or any other law for the time being in force, against the perpetrator, or if the aggrieved woman so desires, where the perpetrator is not an employee, in the workplace at which the incident of sexual harassment took place; (i) treat sexual harassment as a misconduct under the service rules and initiate action for such misconduct; (j) monitor the timely submission of reports by the Internal Committee.

Are there any obligations on the employer with respect to sexual harassment?

  • The employers are supposed to primarily make sure that the workplace is safe for all women. Women employees should not feel unsafe in the presence of others who are not working but are only visiting the workplace. Further, the employer should put up the sexual harassment policy and the order that sets up the Internal Complaints Committee so that all employees can see it.
  • The employer should organize regular workshops to educate the employees about issues of sexual harassment.
  • They should also include sexual harassment as a part of their service rules and frame a comprehensive policy to deal with it in the workplace.

Are there any special measures that employers should take with respect to the Internal Complaints Committee?

  • The employer should organize training programs for the members of the Committee.
  • They should provide all facilities to conduct the inquiry.
  • They should ensure that witnesses and the offender appear before the Committee and make all information available to the Committee.
  • They should support any woman who chooses to file a criminal case against an offender, whether the perpetrator is an employee or not.
  • They should treat sexual harassment as a misconduct under service rules.
  • Ensure that reports by the Committee are submitted on time.

20. Duties and powers of District Officer.—

The District Officer shall, — (a) monitor the timely submission of report furnished by the Local Committee; (b) take such measures as may be necessary for engaging non-governmental organisations for creation of awareness on sexual harassment and the rights of the women.
This section explains the duties of the District Officer appointed under this Act.

21. Committee to submit annual report.—

(1) The Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall in each calendar year prepare, in such form and at such time as may be prescribed, an annual report and submit the same to the employer and the District Officer.
(2) The District Officer shall forward a brief report on the annual reports received under sub-section (1) to the State Government.
  • The Committee has to submit an annual report to the employer and District Officer.
  • The District Officer has to send a copy to the State Government.

22. Employer to include information in annual report.—

The employer shall include in its report the number of cases filed, if any, and their disposal under this Act in the annual report of his organisation or where no such report is required to be prepared, intimate such number of cases, if any, to the District Officer.

What information should the report contain?

The report should contain the following information:
  • number of complaints received
  • number of complaints disposed
  • number of pending cases
  • the kind of action taken against offenders
  • number of workshops
If there is no Committee at such workplace, the employer shall inform the District Officer of the number of complaints made.

23. Appropriate Government to monitor implementation and maintain data.—

The appropriate Government shall monitor the implementation of this Act and maintain data on the number of cases filed and disposed of in respect of all cases of sexual harassment at workplace.
The appropriate government has to oversee implementation of the Act and maintain data.

24. Appropriate Government to take measures to publicise the Act.—

The appropriate Government may, subject to the availability of financial and other resources, — (a) develop relevant information, education, communication and training materials, and organise awareness programmes, to advance the understanding of the public of the provisions of this Act providing for protection against sexual harassment of woman at workplace; (b) formulate orientation and training programmes for the members of the Local Complaints Committee.
The appropriate government should ensure that the Act is well publicized and accessible to women in workplaces.

25. Power to call for information and inspection of records.—

(1) The appropriate Government, on being satisfied that it is necessary in the public interest or in the interest of women employees at a workplace to do so, by order in writing,— (a) call upon any employer or District Officer to furnish in writing such information relating to sexual harassment as it may require; (b) authorise any officer to make inspection of the records and workplace in relation to sexual harassment, who shall submit a report of such inspection to it within such period as may be specified in the order.
(2) Every employer and District Officer shall produce on demand before the officer making the inspection all information, records and other documents in his custody having a bearing on the subject matter of such inspection.

Can the government interfere in such cases?

Yes, they ask any employer or District Officer to provide information relating to sexual harassment if it is required to be done in public interest. They can also order the inspection of relevant documents.

26. Penalty for non-compliance with provisions of Act.—

(1) Where the employer fails to— (a) constitute an Internal Committee under sub-section (1) of section 4; (b) take action under sections 13, 14 and 22; and (c) contravenes or attempts to contravene or abets contravention of other provisions of this Act or any rules made thereunder, he shall be punishable with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees.
(2) If any employer, after having been previously convicted of an offence punishable under this Act subsequently commits and is convicted of the same offence, he shall be liable to— (i) twice the punishment, which might have been imposed on a first conviction, subject to the punishment being maximum provided for the same offence: Provided that in case a higher punishment is prescribed under any other law for the time being in force, for the offence for which the accused is being prosecuted, the court shall take due cognizance of the same while awarding the punishment; (ii) cancellation, of his licence or withdrawal, or non-renewal, or approval, or cancellation of the registration, as the case may be, by the Government or local authority required for carrying on his business or activity.

What happens if an employer does not perform his duties under this Act?

  • The employer can be punished with a fine of up to Rs. 50,000.
  • If the employer repeatedly violates provisions of this Act, he can be asked to pay a higher fine. The employer's license and registration can be suspended or cancelled as well.

27. Cognizance of offence by courts.—

(1) No court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under this Act or any rules made thereunder, save on a complaint made by the aggrieved woman or any person authorised by the Internal Committee or Local Committee in this behalf.
(2) No court inferior to that of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class shall try any offence punishable under this Act.
(3) Every offence under this Act shall be non-cognizable.

Can a case under this Act be taken to Court?

No, no case can be taken to Court unless the victim herself or the Committee files a case before the Court.

Which Court can hear this case?

Any court, as long as it is a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class or above.

Can someone be arrested without a warrant under this Act?

No, a warrant is required for arrest.

28. Act not in derogation of any other law.—

The provisions of this Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force.

Does this Act override other laws on sexual harassment?

No. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 which is the general law on crimes in India, makes a number of acts which are in the nature of sexual harassment, crimes:
  • Section 354 (outraging a woman's modesty);
  • Section 354A (sexual harassment generally);
  • Section 354B (forcing a woman to disrobe);
  • Section 354C (voyeurism);
  • Section 354D (stalking);
  • Section 509 (using words to outrage the modesty of a woman);
  • Section 294 (Obscene acts and songs).
This Act will supplement other laws on sexual harassment such as the above sections. A victim always has the option of filing a criminal case.

29. Power of appropriate Government to make rules.—

(1) The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules for carrying out the provisions of this Act.
(2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely:— (a) the fees or allowances to be paid to the Members under sub-section (4) of section 4; (b) nomination of members under clause (c) of sub-section (1) of section 7; (c) the fees or allowances to be paid to the Chairperson, and Members under sub-section (4) of section 7; (d) the person who may make complaint under sub-section (2) of section 9; (e) the manner of inquiry under sub-section (1) of section 11; (f) the powers for making an inquiry under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 11; (g) the relief to be recommended under clause (c) of sub-section (1) of section 12; (h) the manner of action to be taken under clause (i) of sub-section (3) of section 13; (i) the manner of action to be taken under sub-sections (1) and (2) of section 14; (j) the manner of action to be taken under section 17; (l) the manner of appeal under sub-section (1) of section 18; (m) the manner of organising workshops, awareness programmes for sensitising the employees and orientation programmes for the members of the Internal Committee under clause (c) of section 19; and (n) the form and time for preparation of annual report by Internal Committee and the Local Committee under sub-section (1) of section 21.
(3) Every rule made by the Central Government under this Act shall be laid as soon as may be after it is made, before each House of Parliament, while it is in session, for a total period of thirty days which may be comprised in one session or in two or more successive sessions, and if, before the expiry of the session immediately following the session or the successive sessions aforesaid, both Houses agree in making any modification in the rule or both Houses agree that the rule should not be made, the rule shall thereafter have effect only in such modified form or be of no effect, as the case may be; so, however, that any such modification or annulment shall be without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under that rule.
(4) Any rule made under sub-section (4) of section 8 by the State Government shall be laid, as soon as may be after it is made, before each House of the State Legislature where it consists of two Houses, or where such Legislature consists of one House, before that House.
This section details the subjects on which the Central/State Government can make rules under this Act.

30. Power to remove difficulties.—

(1) If any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act, the Central Government may, by order published in the Official Gazette, make such provisions, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, as may appear to it to be necessary for removing the difficulty: Provided that no such order shall be made under this section after the expiry of a period of two years from the commencement of this Act.
(2) Every order made under this section shall be laid, as soon as may be after it is made, before each House of Parliament.
This section explains the powers of the Central Government to issue orders to remove difficulties in enforcing provisions of the Act.